January 2, 2014

Mr. Vince Willmore
Vice President for Communications
Tobacco Free Kids
1400 I Street NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20005        

Dear Mr. Willmore:

I am writing today about comments made by you about Mackinac Center for Public Policy research authored by myself and my colleague professor Todd Nesbit. The comments appeared in the online news organ Golocalpro.com.

In the article you describe our methodology as “seriously flawed,” but there is no explanation contained in the article as to the problem you see with our method. Our methodology was carefully peer reviewed by doctorate-level economists and produces qualitatively similar results as those of numerous peer-reviewed, academic publications.

We welcome constructive criticism of our work because in the end sound review helps us to be better scholars. Our goal as researchers is to better understand the world around us and communicate that understanding so that more informed decisions about private action and public policy are made.

As is required for all empirical studies, we must make some simplifying assumptions in the modeling process, but we do not believe any of our assumptions bias the output toward a given outcome. If your research team believes otherwise, we ask that they play a constructive role in helping us reveal the extent of the relationship between cigarette taxation and smuggling activity.  

Understanding whether smuggling activity is rampant or nearly non-existent is vital to establishing the proper mix of tax policy and education campaigns, provided Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ goal of reducing youth smoking rates. We'd like to serve as a reliable source of information for all individuals and organizations concerned with tobacco tax policy, including your organization. Receiving constructive feedback is an important aspect in our success in reaching that goal.

It is worth noting here that this is the second time we have responded to your organization about some alleged shortcoming in our methodology. Last February we politely explained to your vice president of research, Mr. Danny McGoldrick, why his interpretation of our methodology was not correct. As he offered us no rejoinder we must assume our explanation was satisfactory.

That leads us then to a vital question: were you aware of our response to Mr. McGoldrick? If you were and still chose to complain about our methodology that would suggest that there is some other issue we still need to address.

Could you please explain in detail to us what has you so troubled about our methodology?

Sincerely,

Michael LaFaive
Director of Fiscal Policy
Mackinac Center

Todd Nesbit
Senior Lecturer
The Ohio State University